The Science Behind Behavior Change

Many people make resolutions in January to set their intentions for the year and take steps to reach their goals. And taking any step to have healthier habits is a good goal to have! More than seven in 10 deaths in the United States are caused by chronic conditions that might have been prevented by eating well, staying active, quitting nicotine, and cutting back on alcohol. 

But what if we find ourselves attempting the same resolutions year after year? It can feel somewhat defeating to keep writing down the same resolutions and realize we didn’t achieve what we wanted in the prior year. So what does science say about making new habits, and having them stick? 

According to research, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit. The exact amount of time it takes to form a habit can vary depending on the individual and the specific habit they are trying to form. 

In general, it is thought that the more difficult a new behavior is to perform, the longer it will take to become a habit. Habits that require more effort and concentration to perform are more likely to require a longer period of consistent practice before they become automatic. 

Other factors that can affect the formation of new habits include the person’s age, their current level of motivation, and the presence of any external cues or triggers that can remind them to perform the new behavior. 

Making healthy habits stick can be challenging, but it is important to remember that it takes time and effort to develop new habits. Here are a few tips that may help: 

Start small: Choose one or two habits that you would like to work on and focus on them until they become routine. 

Make a plan: Set specific goals and create a plan for how you will incorporate your new habits into your daily routine. 

Be consistent: Try to practice your new habits at the same time each day to make them easier to remember. 

Track your progress: Keep track of your progress to help stay motivated and on track. 

Seek support: Share your goals and progress with a friend or family member who can support and encourage you. 

Be patient: It can take time for new habits to become automatic, so don’t get discouraged if it takes a while. Keep working at it and you will see progress over time. 

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners